For the Time Being —
Notes from the Developmental Minister
Generosity is good for us.
The results are in – generosity is good for us! It doesn’t seem to matter, furthermore, whether we’re generous with our time, talent, or financial resources. However we’re generous, it enhances our physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Research indicates that generosity lowers our blood pressure. It reduces our risk of dementia, or cardiovascular crises. It promotes “better living through brain chemistry” – opening up the “mesolimbic pathway,” the “reward center” in the brain, to release the pain-blocker dopamine, and the “tranquility hormone” oxytocin.
A variety of studies support the connection. One involving Alcoholics Anonymous indicated that AA members who helped other alcoholics were twice as likely to maintain their own sobriety. A United Way study showed that people who volunteer sleep better than those who don’t volunteer. They have better friendships and social networks, and fewer feelings of anxiety, helplessness, or hopelessness. Perhaps that’s why another study indicated that older people who volunteered were 44% less likely to die in the next five years than those who didn’t.
Worth noting for our current Pledge Campaign: On the side of financial generosity, similar results show up. A National Institute of Health study showed that giving money, like volunteering, releases endorphins that boost the immune system and reduce pain. Another one indicated that withholding generosity and feeling bad about it leads to a rise in the stress hormone cortisol.
In study at Duke University, each participant was given a Starbucks gift card. Half were told it was for their own use, while the other half were asked to take the card and give it to someone else. That night, the researchers called all the participants and asked questions about how happy they were feeling. Those given the card for themselves reported no uptick in happiness. But those who gave the card away said that yes, they were feeling happier than they had in the morning, before they were given the card. If that result holds up in other experiments, then the adage “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” will have empirical support!
Not that we should be only givers, and never receivers. If someone offers us a gift, or some kind of assistance, we’re not doing them any favors by turning them away. There are times, of course, when the help offered is intrusive, or not what we need. But it’s also possible to refuse help for the wrong reasons – thereby denying someone the joy of generosity.
One Unitarian Universalist hymn goes like this: “From you I receive; to you I give. Together we share, and by this we live.” These words characterize the church, which has proven over the years to be a congregation of generous people. Ultimately in community, there is no separate giver and receiver. When we receive, we give – and when we give, we receive.
Love and blessings,
The Reverend Suzanne Redfern-Campbell